Protecting the biodiversity of the Sierra Madre Oriental

Project description

Title: Protecting the biodiversity of the Sierra Madre Oriental
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Mexico
Partner organisation: National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP)
Overall term: 2012 to 2016

Mexico.   Indigine/ Native © GIZ


Mexico, classified as one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries, is home to 10-12 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity on just 1.5 per cent of its total surface area. The mountainous Sierra Madre Oriental region is one of the country’s biodiversity hotspots. The region’s biodiversity, however, has already been significantly reduced in some areas. There is heavy fragmentation of many natural areas, and only a very small number of large, contiguous forests remain intact.

Multiple triggers exist for the increasing levels of degradation, including inadequate implementation of conservation regulations, destructive changes in land use, particularly logging, and environmentally harmful subsidies. New approaches are therefore needed to conserve biodiversity. They not only need to strengthen existing protected areas, but also protect zones between such areas and promote their sustainable use.


Within the context of a corridor strategy, an innovative approach to conservation and sustainable development is implemented for the Sierra Madre Oriental.


Many plant and animal species have little chance of survival in the small number of protected areas because they require movement across vast geographical areas. Therefore a corridor in the Sierra Madre Oriental is to connect intact natural areas. In this corridor, the economic, ecological and social needs of people, flora and fauna are the focus of comprehensive policy considerations.

GIZ is assisting the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) in its work. In addition to pursuing the principles of good governance, in the future the Commission is to be able to successfully and efficiently work together with various actors from the public and private sectors in a coordinated manner. All stakeholder interests are to be incorporated into the joint Sierra Madre Oriental Ecological Corridor project. Particular emphasis is placed on involving indigenous communities.

Economic incentives are used to support measures aimed at good governance. The Mexican Government is providing a range of financing programmes for rural development, supporting indigenous communities and protecting watersheds and biodiversity.

A number of these programmes, however, have also had a negative impact on biodiversity, for example the construction of new national roads or the promotion of livestock breeding in forest areas. There is also still a lack of expertise regarding the commercialisation of sustainable products like coffee and honey, as well as services, for example those related to the tourism industry.

The project and CONANP are cooperating with institutions that can play key roles in strengthening the conservation of biodiversity through coordinated action, and minimising the negative impacts on the Sierra Madre Oriental Ecological Corridor. The realignment of financing programmes and sustainable business opportunities are being discussed with the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) and a number of different ministries.

The consulting firm GITEC Consult GmbH supports the implementation of the project.

Results achieved so far

A participatory multi-stakeholder process was used to identify the ecological corridor and core areas. The corridor covers approximately four million hectares and extends across more than 200 communities in five federal states.

Inter-institutional working groups were established in the states of Hidalgo, Puebla, San Luis Potosí and Veracruz. Representatives of state ministries, non-governmental organisations and universities meet regularly to exchange information and make decisions.

The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) has received organisational support, for example towards creating a long-term strategy.

Mexico. Fragmentation of the landscape   © GIZ

Studies were conducted and evaluated on governance and economic instruments in the priority areas. A network of universities and research institutions has been established to support the project. Stakeholders from the private sector have been integrated into the project. Closer cooperation with local stakeholders has begun, among other things through support in the form of resources, capacity development and local projects.